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‘Digital Darwinism’ and positive changes to practice

As digital Darwinism makes waves post-pandemic, disruptive technology is changing law firms for good. So how can they adapt?

user iconLauren Croft 04 March 2022 NewLaw
Joel Cranshaw
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Digital Darwinism is a term used to describe technology evolving so rapidly consumers cannot keep up – and this kind of technology has had a range of impacts on the legal industry.

Joel Cranshaw, director of Clearpoint Legal, said that when it comes to the future of the profession, “the future is bright”.

“People are always going to need assistance to avoid and resolve disputes. The legal profession will become more and more reliant on technology to provide it with information quickly and accurately to assist with decision making,” he told Lawyers Weekly.


“Lawyers will become users, creators and designers of these systems which will allow them to focus on the nuances of arguments, strategy, and negotiation rather than drudgery of form filling and repetitive drafting.”

Mr Cranshaw explained that whilst technology has greatly evolved over recent years, true disruption is still to come.

“We have emerged from a period of relative global stability, where the most difficult times for business were marked by economic crises. Digital Darwinism used to apply to major innovations which single large businesses failed to adopt, like Kodak or more recently Blackberry. More recently we’ve seen the emergence of disruptions to taxi and accommodation services,” he added.

“The emergence of better artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies and cloud computing mean that major disruption is on the way for many more sectors, including professional services and in particular legal services. It may not have arrived yet in a major way, or as soon as many have predicted, we think it is still likely to occur and when it does those that are slow to adopt technology are likely to be left behind.”

Many businesses were forced to adopt new technologies as a result of COVID-19, which acted as a catalyst for many efficiency-improving techs.

“Being forced to use technology has shown businesses that the investment is worth it both in productivity and profitability. It is the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln’s quote about how much time he would spend sharpening his axe before chopping down a tree,” Mr Cranshaw added.

“Businesses should consider continual investment in research and development of new technology to enable them to provide their goods and services more effectively to their customers and clients. They would be wise to invest in business continuity technologies that enable them to adapt quickly to different types of crises, by always having a sharp axe.”

The legal industry is no exception to this uptake in new technologies; document automation, information databases and artificial intelligence review processes, as well as the shift to online court hearings, have all been embraced by the profession.

“These systems enable lawyers to provide their services more quickly which is enabling them to transition to fixed fee rather than time-based billing. Technology such as video conferencing and electronic signing has made law more accessible to clients. In house and private practice teams are also using technology to collect data which better enables them to price matters and resource their teams,” Mr Cranshaw explained.

“Disruptive technology, to businesses, is an innovation that significantly alters the way that businesses operate. We don’t think that the types of technologies we are seeing have made significant impacts on the way businesses access and lawyers provide services yet.

“The types of technology that might disrupt the legal market for businesses are ones that allow businesses perform legal tasks themselves much like Xero has done for the accounting profession.”

Over the next year – and as we enter a post-pandemic market – the use of these technologies will increase despite in-person interactions and more normalcy returning within the profession, Mr Cranshaw added.

“Use of certain technologies, such as use of video and electronic signing and witnessing are likely to continue to increase, which will assist with accessibility in all areas of law. In person meetings are likely to return, but in conjunction with video and electronic witnessing and signing. Flexible working will continue using these technologies as well,” he said.

“However, most firms have acknowledged that the technology cannot yet replace in person contact when it comes to the development of junior lawyers. Much of their development comes from observing how senior lawyers conduct themselves, ad-hoc discussions between meetings and overhearing conversations which can’t be replicated by technology yet. Accordingly, both senior lawyers and junior lawyers will need to spend some time in person. Use of automation and artificial intelligence will increase as well, but the most important changes will be finding a hybrid work model that strikes the right balance.”

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